Trump vs. Biden: Who's the better ally for online gambling?

Should You Vote For Biden Or Trump If You Want Legal Online Poker And Gambling?

Let’s say you’re a single-issue American voter, who wants legal online gambling in as many states as possible. Who should you pick for the next President of the United States?

First, let’s take one step back. There are lots of important reasons to get out and vote for president and all other elected positions. Most of those have nothing to do with gambling.

That said, Online Poker Report is a site about gambling, specifically online poker and casinos. While many people already know who they prefer between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, there are still some undecided voters out there.

Some of those people are passionate about gambling issues. As I’ve learned over the years, they’re particularly motivated by the issue of online poker.

If that describes you, if you care about the future of legal online gambling in the United States, we can tell you it’s an easy choice at the top of the ballot.

The answer is not who you might think

Donald Trump, believe it or not, has had a demonstrable negative effect on online gambling. Joe Biden, meanwhile, is at worst harmless for online gambling. At best, he could help make the climate better for those wanting to play online poker from their homes.

Yes, Donald Trump is famous for running casinos in Atlantic City once upon a time, although one of the last vestiges of that era is being torn down.

Trump’s time as a casino magnate has not translated into anything good for online gambling, however. In fact, the only significant policy move of his administration on this front has had a decidedly negative impact.

Donald Trump and the Wire Act

What happened? Well, if you read our site regularly, you know the backstory. But in case you don’t, in 2019, the US Department of Justice rescinded previous guidance on the federal Wire Act. This law deals with conducting gambling on an interstate basis. Historically, it prohibits only interstate sports betting, but the DOJ’s new position is an attempt to extend it to all forms of online gambling.

Lotteries and online gambling companies claim this could have a potentially chilling effect on their businesses if the Wire Act is applied to their business models. Everything from the interstate lottery games like Powerball and Mega Millions to legal online casinos that may have some amount of data that crosses state lines is potentially in the firing line.

It has certainly complicated the possibility of interstate online poker, as well. Right now, Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware are engaged in such liquidity sharing. The prospects of other states, like Pennsylvania, joining that interstate compact are lessened by the Wire Act guidance.

The issue of the application of the Wire Act is currently in federal appeals court. A district court ruled the DOJ’s interpretation of the Wire Act is incorrect.

How involved Trump himself has been in the DOJ’s actions is unknown. However, this disruption to the status quo for the Wire Act has come directly from his administration. There is more, however.

The Adelson-Trump connection

Here are two facts that are hard to dispute:

  • One of Donald Trump’s biggest donors is Las Vegas Sands chairman Sheldon Adelson.
  • Sheldon Adelson has been and continues to be the single biggest opponent to legal online gambling in the United States.

Online Poker Report came into possession of documents that detailed some of how the DOJ came to its decision on the Wire Act. There’s no smoking gun linking Adelson to the decision. However, the backtracking from an obscure Wire Act opinion under Trump is certainly head-scratching.

Adelson has been trying to change US policy on online gambling for years. His attempts at passing the Restoration of America’s Wire Act through Congress are well known. That piece of legislation failed, fortunately. However, it was an attempt to accomplish the same thing that the DOJ is now pursuing with its new interpretation of the Wire Act, just through a different channel.

In any event, this very influential supporter of Trump has been on a mission to stop legal online gambling. Adelson will not stop in this mission. And that means nothing good for online poker and online casino in the US, so long as he has the president’s ear.

So is Biden better for online gambling?

Gambling is not a topic Biden speaks much about in general. However, his stances on the rule of law and the role of federal government suggest that he would, at minimum, not interfere with states’ efforts to expand gambling. That is often the best we can hope for when it comes to politicians at the federal level.

The most significant piece of concrete information we have is Biden saying he would roll back what Trump has done on the Wire Act:

“I would reverse the White House opinion that was then reversed and overruled by the court. The court is correct. That should be the prevailing position.”

So, we can’t necessarily expect anything more from Biden on this front than clearing up the environment from the DOJ perspective. It’s not realistic to hope that either candidate would do anything to legalize online gambling at the federal level. However, restoring the status quo, ending federal meddling and leaving matters up to the states would constitute a win at this point in time.

It deserves repeating that there is much more at stake in this election than just online gambling. We would not recommend making your decision solely on that basis.

However, if you are on the fence overall, and gambling is an issue for you, this is where the presidential candidates stand on the issue: Donald Trump will continue to support attempts at federal interference, while Joe Biden will get out of the way and let states decide.

- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner. He has played poker recreationally for his entire adult life and has written about poker since 2008.
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